PhD researcher ‘Post-Socialist Cultures of Suspicion: Smolensk’

Updated: 11 days ago
Deadline: ;

Are you looking for a challenging position in a dynamic setting? The Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA) currently has a vacant PhD position as part of a project funded by the European Research Council (ERC). The project studies the intersections of cultural memory and conspiracy-based cultural imagination in Central and Eastern Europe during the period 2010-2020. The project team at ASCA will be led by principal investigator dr. Boris Noordenbos.

ASCA is one of the five Research Schools within the Amsterdam Institute for Humanities Research . ASCA is home to more than 110 scholars and 120 PhD candidates, and is a world-leading international research school in Cultural Analysis. ASCA members share a commitment to working in an interdisciplinary framework and to maintaining a close connection with contemporary cultural and political debates.

What are you going to do

Academic inquiry into conspiracy theories is unquestionably on the rise. Since the turn of the millennium, a new generation of scholars has released conspiracy theories from their earlier associations with psychic pathologies and has shifted attention to their wider social and cultural functioning. Existing research, however, still tends to treat conspiracy theories in historical and cultural isolation, overlooking their reliance on earlier events and narrative templates, and neglecting their – increasingly digital – transnational dynamic. Focusing on conspiratorial stories and images in Central and East European literature, film, television, commemorative rituals and online culture, CONSPIRATORIAL MEMORY aims to overcome these limitations.

The project illuminates the historical references, the transnational interactions and the online circulations that give conspiracy theories their rhetorical and emotional momentum in the post-socialist era. Relying on a theoretical framework that enriches the emerging field of conspiracy theory studies with affect studies and cultural memory studies, the project zooms in on conspiracy-based cultural imaginations from Poland, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus regarding three transnational events that have recently been at the center of international political tensions. Three subprojects (two PhDs and the PI) each focus on conspiracy culture around one of these events, employing the qualitative methodology of Cultural Analysis to examine the intersecting discourses of memory and suspicion. A fourth subproject (one Postdoc starting in 2022) uses quantitative digital media research methods to analyze the medium-specific contributions of online platforms to memory-based conspiracy culture. The Project-Synthesis (PI) compares the modes and media of expression in the examined cases, and addresses their parallels with conspiracy culture from Western Europe and the United States.

This PhD project focuses on ‘Smolensk’. It examines conspiracy culture regarding the 2010 crash of the Tupolev-Tu-154M aircraft near Smolensk (Russia) in which president Lech Kaczyński died, along with his wife and more than 90 members of the Polish political and military elite. In public imagination, the tragedy immediately acquired historical proportions, primarily because the officials were on their way to a joint Polish-Russian commemoration ceremony marking the seventieth anniversary of the Katyń massacre in which Soviet NKVD officers executed more than 20,000 Polish civilians and servicemen. Over the past decade, the 2010 catastrophe has spurred an exceptionally rich, memory-infused culture of conspiracy, which has affected Poland’s political landscape and international relations.

The PhD researcher investigates conspiratorial engagements with this event in Polish and Russian culture, asking the following questions: 

  • What are the most prominent (widely watched / read / performed / commented upon) cultural imaginations of conspiracy regarding the Smolensk air crash?
  • Which (competing) repertoires of cultural memory do these imaginations reference or mobilize, and which historical connections and analogies do they foreground? 
  • To what extent do narratives regarding the (twentieth-century) past determine the hermeneutic practices and horizons of expectations in the examined imaginations? 
  • Which affective attachments and alignments do these cultural imaginations suggest, and which politics of belonging do they support?
  • How are these conspiratorial imaginations adapted across national borders, and how do they respond to one another in transnational contexts?

Tasks and responsibilities:

  • completion of a PhD thesis within the period of appointment;
  • completion and submission of two article manuscripts to peer-reviewed journals within the period of appointment;
  • completion and submission of one chapter for an edited volume within the period of appointment;
  • regular participation in national and international workshops/conferences.

What do we require

You are curious and motivated with a background in the Humanities or Social Sciences. You have a passion for theory-based, interdisciplinary humanities research. You have experience researching contemporary Central or East European (popular) culture and you are interested in its connections to current political debates.


The successful applicant must have:

  • A relevant Master’s degree in the Humanities or Social Sciences, preferably with a focus on contemporary Polish culture, completed no later than 31 August 2021. You may apply if you have not yet completed your Master’s degree only if you provide a signed letter from your supervisor stating that you will graduate before 31 August 2021;
  • Outstanding research qualities, manifested in strong transcripts;
  • Demonstrable experience with the close-reading of cultural objects, in particular with the narrative, visual and discursive analysis of (documentary) film, television, commemorative practices and/or (non-fiction) literature;
  • Demonstrable experience working with theoretical frameworks, and a keen interest in the research fields central to the project: conspiracy theory studies, memory studies, and affect studies;
  • Excellent written and spoken English and Polish, as well as a high level of language proficiency in Russian;
  • Strong analytical skills;
  • Strong organizational skills;
  • Keen interest in interdisciplinary research methods and approaches;
  • Team spirit and the ability to work in an interdisciplinary, international environment;
  • Willingness to travel abroad for fieldwork, research stays, conferences and workshops.

Please note that if you already hold a doctorate/PhD or are working towards obtaining a similar degree elsewhere, you will not be admitted to a doctoral programme at the UvA.

Our offer

We offer a temporary full-time contract for the period of 48 months. The first contract will be for 16 months, with an extension for the following 32 months, contingent on a positive performance evaluation within the first 12 months. The starting date is 1 September 2021.

The gross monthly salary will be €2,395 during the first year to reach €3,061 during the fourth year, in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities . This is exclusive 8% holiday allowance and 8,3% end-of-year bonus. A favourable tax agreement, the ‘30% ruling’, may apply to non-Dutch applicants.

What else do we offer

  • PhD candidates have free access to courses offered by the Graduate School of Humanities and the Dutch National Research Schools ;
  • excellent possibilities for further professional development and education;
  • an enthusiastic, inspiring and professional academic team in the centre of Amsterdam.

About us

The University of Amsterdam is the Netherlands’ largest university, offering the widest range of academic programmes. At the UvA, 30,000 students, 6,000 staff members and 3,000 PhD candidates study and work in a diverse range of fields, connected by a culture of curiosity.

Curious about our organisation and attractive fringe benefits such as a generous holiday arrangement and development opportunities? Here you can read more about working at the University of Amsterdam.

About the Faculty of Humanities

The Faculty of Humanities provides education and conducts research with a strong international profile in a large number of disciplines in de field of language and culture. Located in the heart of Amsterdam, the faculty maintains close ties with many cultural institutes in the capital city. Research and teaching staff focus on interdisciplinary collaboration and are active in several teaching programmes.


Do you have any questions, or do you require additional information?

  • For more information on the project, please contact dr. Boris Noordenbos 
  • For practical questions, please contact dr. Eloe Kingma 

Job application

The UvA is an equal-opportunity employer. We prioritise diversity and are committed to creating an inclusive environment for everyone. We value a spirit of enquiry and perseverance, provide the space to keep asking questions, and promote a culture of curiosity and creativity. ASCA wants to improve the diversity of its academic community with respect to ethnicity, gender, sexuality, ability and class. Applications that contribute to this are particularly encouraged.

Do you recognise yourself in the job profile? Then we look forward to receiving your application. You may apply online by using the link below.

Applications should include the following information, in one pdf file (not zipped):

  • a letter, motivating your reasons for applying, and detailing why you are an excellent candidate for the role (no more than 1,000 words);
  • your curriculum vitae, listing at least: full address and contact details, education, professional employment and language proficiency. Also include grants/honours, conference presentations and publications, if applicable.
  • a writing sample, such as an essay, conference paper, or chapter from your Master’s thesis, 3,000-9,000 words.
  • a research statement of 1,000-1,500 words in which you:
  • describe how your previous research (undertaken for completion of your Master’s or Research Master’s program) connects to the scope of this PhD project;
  • outline of your intended approach of this project;
  • suggest one cultural object – e.g. a (documentary) film, television series, commemorative ceremony, or work of (non-)fiction – which qualifies for inclusion into the corpus of this PhD project. Sketch how the cultural object is relevant, explain how you would approach/analyze it, and specify the focus and methodology of your proposed analysis.
  • transcripts of your Master’s (or equivalent) degree, and of your Bachelor’s degree.
  • the names and contact details of two referees familiar with your academic record and research skills.  

The response period closes on 8 June 2021. Only complete applications submitted as one pdf file - received within the response period via the link below - will be considered.

The interviews will be held on Tuesday 22 June 2021, via Zoom.

no agencies please


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